USA | Sep 1, 2022

US study shows alarming dip in 9-year-olds’ reading and math skills during pandemic

/ Our Today

Students attend a class, as returning to schools with coronavirus disease (COVID-19) prevention measures began, in San Antonio, Texas, U.S., January 11, 2022. (File Photo: REUTERS/Kaylee Greenlee Beal)


Test scores released today (September 1) showed that American nine-year-olds’ reading and mathematics achievement levels had dropped to levels last seen two decades ago, revealing the damage the COVID-19 pandemic has wrought on education in the United States.

The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) compared assessments conducted in 2020, shortly before COVID-19 was declared a worldwide pandemic, to others administered in early 2022 to measure how pandemic-related learning disruptions had affected the children’s achievement.

The plummeting scores represent “some of the largest declines” since the NCES began regularly monitoring student reading and math performance in the 1970s, according to the centre’s acting associate commissioner, Daniel McGrath.


In mathematics, Black students’ scores declined by 13 points, compared with eight points for Hispanic students and five points for white students, part of a wider trend of minorities suffering disproportionately from pandemic fallout. Reading scores declined evenly by six points across racial groups from 2020 to 2022.

Lower-performing students across all races also experienced much greater declines than students in the top percentiles of both test categories.

For the NCES’s reading assessment, students read short texts and answer multiple-choice questions or write longer answers. For mathematics, students answered mostly multiple-choice questions about basic math facts, computations, formulas and real-life applications.


The study also surveyed students on how the pandemic had affected their learning environment, with 70 per cent of students saying they recalled learning remotely at some point during the 2020-2021 school year.

Of the remote learners, 83 per cent of students performing at or above the 75th percentile in reading and math had constant access to a computer or tablet, compared with 61 per cent of students performing at or below the 25th percentile.

The NCES said it plans to release a more comprehensive report later this year, including mathematics and reading results for students in 4th and 8th grades around the country, in each state and in 26 urban school districts.


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